The University of Maine’s former All-Star goalie Jeremy Swayman had his first career opportunity to start in the NHL on Tuesday, April 6. The Boston Bruins were dealing with an injury to starting goaltender Tuukka Rask and backup goalie Jaroslav Halak went on the COVID-19 protocol list. Swayman was called up to the big leagues and because the Bruins were on the second game of a back-to-back he would get the start. Swayman seized the moment and led the Bruins to a 4-2 victory. Swayman recorded 40 saves, 23 of which came in the second period. His heroics kept the Bruins in a game that easily could have gotten out of hand.
Swayman made his professional debut earlier this year on Feb. 4 for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League — the league situated under the NHL.
Throughout his time at UMaine, Swayman racked up an impressive 0.939 save percentage, and a 2.07 goals against average for the Black Bears. He has managed to carry this momentum to his professional career.
In his first career start, Swayman stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced en route to a 4-1 victory against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Swayman won the first seven games he started.
Swayman’s first shutout came on March 10 against the same team he picked up his first win against, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In the AHL Swayman has an 8-1 record, a 0.933 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.89, which are quite outstanding numbers for a rookie in a competitive league. Swayman ranks third in the AHL in goals against average, fourth in wins, and second in save percentage. The fact that he is in the top four in all of the major goalie stats is quite amazing considering he is a rookie, but as UMaine fans know, Swayman iswas a special talent and it’s not too surprising to see him have this level of success.
Swayman’s performance in his first game with the Boston Bruins was good enough to earn him a second straight start, and on Thursday, April 8, Swayman took the net for the Bruins again. Swayman helped the Bruins to another 4-2 victory, where the only time the Capitals were able to beat Swayman came on a two-man advantage powerplay. Both came within 20 seconds of each other on the same powerplay, with the first one coming on a one time slap shot by Alexander Ovechkin and the second being another one timer from T.J. Oshie.
Swayman had been so impressive in his first two starts that the Bruins decided to ride with Swayman since he had the hot hand. In his third start on Saturday, April 10, Swayman came back down to earth a bit and suffered his first career NHL loss. A few rookie mistakes by Swayman had a direct part in two of the three goals against the Bruins. Swayman allowed three goals on the 23 shots. At UMaine, fans rarely saw Swayman struggle, but we should keep in mind he is going to have some rough starts as a young goalie in the best hockey league in the world.
After three career NHL starts, Swayman sits with a 2-1 record. He has a spectacular 0.929 save percentage and a solid 2.35 goals against average. These stats are spectacular for a 22-year-old goalie in his first few starts. Swayman is ahead of schedule in development, and his play thus far will make the Bruins management’s decisions on who their two goalies will be on the club come next season very interesting. Jaroslav Halak’s contract is up at the end of the season, and Swayman may make him expendable.
With Swayman’s great start, along with the Bruins’ goalie issues, it is possible Swayman may make a few more starts for the Boston Bruins in the next few games. When Halak and Rask come back Swayman will most likely return to play with the Providence Bruins and continue to develop.
Seeing Swayman play at the highest level this past week has been very exciting for UMaine fans. Just over a year ago, he was starting for UMaine at the Alfond Arena, and now he is making waves at one the biggest clubs in the NHL. Swayman’s play has planted him firmly as the leading candidate to be the Bruins goalie of the future, and the future may be sooner than we had expected.